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China releases Lego-style propaganda video to mock US coronavirus response

Residents wear surgical masks while crossing the road in order to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in Hong Kong. (Geovien So/SOPA Images/Zuma Press/TNS)
May 04, 2020

Chinese state media published a new video over the weekend in which it mocked the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic using Lego-style toys to portray China and the U.S. in their respective approaches to the virus.

The video, published by the China’s official Xinhua News Agency, portrays its country’s response as having provided constant warnings to the world and having taken numerous precautionary actions while the U.S. scoffed at and dismissed the warnings. The animation appears to be the latest in a pattern of Chinese efforts to shift the blame away from China and to instead suggest the pandemic in the U.S. is purely the result of an inadequate response.

In the video, China is depicted with a toy terracotta warrior figure, while the U.S. is depicted with a toy Statue of Liberty figure. The passage of each month in a timeline is marked by a Lego-style brick labeled with the given month.

In December, the terracotta warrior notes “strange pneumonia cases reported” and a World Health Organization (WHO) seal slides into place to say “Roger that!!”

In January, the terracotta warrior declares “we discovered a new virus.”

The Statue of Liberty figure slides into place and argues back and forth with the terracotta warrior, “So what . . . It’s only a flu.”

The warrior warns to wear a mask and the Statue of Liberty says “don’t wear a mask.” The warrior says to stay at home and the Statue of Liberty says “It’s violating human rights.” The terracotta warrior then says it is building temporary hospitals that the Statue of Liberty figure describes as concentration camps.

As February approaches, the terracotta warrior warns of the disease’s deadliness while the Statue of Liberty figure continues to doubt and says the coronavirus “will magically go away in April.”

In March, the Statue of Liberty figure is hooked up to an intravenous drip and turns red with fever as it begins to blame China for lying about the virus.

“Are you listening to yourselves?” the warrior asks.

“We are always correct, even though we contradict ourselves,” the statue replies.

“That’s what I love about you Americans, your consistency,” the warrior says.

The video comes amid increasing reports of Chinese efforts to conceal the virus early on. While the video portrays China as having declared the “strange pneumonia cases” in December, reports have actually indicated Chinese officials sought to punish medical professionals who warned about the disease in December and ordered disease samples destroyed.

Lego’s press office provided an emailed statement to The Japan Times stating it was not involved in the making of the animation video.

The video portrays WHO as dutifully reporting accurate information about the virus. However, the organization has been criticized for simply repeating Chinese claims about the virus, including that there was “no clear evidence” of the disease’s human-to-human transmission even through January.

“Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇨🇳,” WHO tweeted on Jan. 14.

At one point in the video, China claims the virus has subsided, suggesting they managed to stop the disease in its tracks and kept their death toll low. However, China has been accused of lying about its true coronavirus death toll and recently revised the death toll in the city of Wuhan by 50 percent. The official death toll in Wuhan has surpassed 4,600, however, some estimates speculate the true number of deaths in Wuhan may be as high as 40,000.

The new toy video appears to be China’s latest effort to push off criticism about its coronavirus response and to instead shift blame for the disease’ toll onto countries that have suffered heavily from the virus.

The U.S. State Department and other international observers have, by contrast, assessed the Chinese government, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, have adopted a shared offensive and defensive propaganda narrative around the coronavirus. The apparent offensive propaganda effort is meant to criticize the coronavirus responses of other countries, while the defensive effort simultaneously claims China did an effective job handling the outbreak and promoting positive press about Chinese coronavirus medical relief efforts around the world.